An all-time classic. There, I’ve said it, and I steadfastly refuse to back down. I’m putting my head on the block, and my non-existent reputation on the line. Granted, what I write is all subjective and is only my own experiences, but if you can bear with me and the following woeful analogies, then I will do my utmost to do Talisker‘s 10 Year Old offering a wee bit of justice.
For many whisky enthusiasts, the overwhelming aromas of smoke and peat can be, well, overwhelming. A wee search of the internet will bring up a few reviews describing Laphroaig as having a medicinal, even iodine-like, smoky odour and taste, or those who are taken aback by the meaty, peaty Caol Ila 12 Years Old, for instance.
Talisker 10 acts as a kind of ‘whisky bridge’ between the mellow peat, smoke, and spice of the West Highlands region, and the full-on, blow-your-socks-off smoke bombs and peat monsters that often define Islay’s whisky industry.
However, I don’t want to paint a poorly-worded picture of the Talisker 10 as being a stepping stone to bigger and better things, but more that it’s a wonderful whisky! A stature well-earned due to its own delicious merits, which allow it to act as a bridge to enjoying some of the more powerful whiskies that dominate the whisky region to the south of Skye.
The largest of the Inner Hebrides islands, Skye currently has 2 distilleries, Talisker and Torabhaig, but it’s the former’s single malts which are the most well-known. Founded in 1830, Talisker has had a relatively straightforward existence when compared to the market fluctuations the industry has suffered over the past 150 years. Aside, of course, from a destructive fire in 1960 which completely destroyed the premises, like many unfortunate distilleries before and since. The distillery is now owned by drinks giant Diageo, who also own Caol Ila amongst others, and Talisker have a nice, slightly-varied, core range of whiskies, such as Storm and Port Ruighe. Diageo also allows for some Limited Edition Annual Releases, including older age statements, but it is the 10 that I believe is the jewel in the Talisker crown – it isn’t part of the popular Classic Malts of Scotland range, alongside Lagavulin 16 and Dalwhinnie 15, for nothing.
For me, it’s not a stretch to describe the Talisker 10 as an essential whisky, particularly for those looking to find their feet in a landscape abundant with whisky choices. The 10 regularly wins awards and continues to do so, from a Gold in the International Wine + Spirit competition in 2013, to the more recent World Whisky Award 2018 Gold Medal. The longevity and continued success, whilst never deviating from the expected quality, allow the 10 to remain a stand-out whisky. The fact it can be picked up for as little as £30 just adds to the appeal.
With a mid-range PPM ((Phenol) Parts Per Million) of 22, it has a light smokiness, a salty whiff infused from its proximity to the sea, and vibrant gold colour radiating from the clear glass bottle. Sounds great so far, but is it enjoyable to drink? (Spoiler: Yes, it is).
Nose: Rising from the glass, which has rested for about 5 minutes, is the unmistakable salty, briney aroma of the sea. It’s almost easy to get lost in it, until the pepper shows up to the party. There’s a sweet yet dull hint of seaweed too, and a brief closing of the eyes brings a lovely toffee scent to the senses. 8.5/10
Palate: There’s a warming, mellow peatiness which hits first, followed by a wee bit of spice and pepper as well, which marries with the smokiness and envelops the inside of my mouth. It then makes way for a wonderful salted caramel richness which also carries a hint of pears. 8.5/10
Finish: If there’s a weak point – and after all my cheering – it’s in the finish. A medium one, with the spice still lingering, and a faint iodine bitterness to it. Any fruitiness disappears quite quickly, but it’s a small gripe given the price of the 10, availability, and all-round performance. 7/10
Total: 24/30 – A wise purchase for any whisky fan!